Blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata) have beautiful cobalt-blue plumage and distinctive head crests - they’re the most colorful of all the corvids and one of the most recognisable birds in North America.
Like all corvids, Blue jays are intelligent and resourceful, but what about baby Blue jays? This is a guide to everything you need to know about baby Blue jays!
Baby Blue jays are tiny when they hatch and are mainly grey with faint shades of yellow and pink. They’re blind with closed eyes and may be covered in small featherless naked patches.
Baby Blue jays are mostly feathered when they hatch but may have naked featherless patches. They’re predominantly grey with pink/yellow plumage on their underside. Their eyes are shut and don’t open for the first 4 to 5 days.
While baby Blue jays will only squirm on their first day, they can shuffle around the nest by day 2. Blue jay hatchlings are tiny, just 50mm long or so.
Blue jay feeding chicks in the nest
Blue jays grow rapidly in their first five days, and their plumage gets noticeably darker, turning to olive. Blue feathers don’t start breaking out until day 14 or so and continue to grow until day 20 or so, at which point the jay fledges.
Full blue plumage development isn’t complete for another month or so after fledging. However, juvenile Blue jays are relatively easy to identify by their blue-grey plumage and buff, fluffy feathers.
A pair of recently fledged blue jays
Baby Blue jays weigh around 5.5g at hatching with a body length of just 51 mm. By the fifth day, Blue jays already weigh approximately 20 to 28g and measure about 76 mm.
Baby Blue jays won’t leave the nest for 17 to 22 days but are unable to fly for another week or so after fledging.
Once fledged, the chicks remain close to their parents. The parents often relocate away from the nest while staying within the confines of deep treetop foliage.
Blue jay fledglings are vulnerable and are pretty easy to spot if they’re roaming around on the ground. However, if you spot one, its parents are probably watching it (and you!) from a treetop perch, so think twice before touching or relocating it.
A blue jay fledgling on the ground
There is no specific name for baby Blue jays. Just after they hatch, Baby Blue jays are called hatchlings. Then, they develop into nestlings while they spend all of their time in the nest. Finally, baby Blue jays become fledglings, juveniles, and fully grown adults.
Baby Blue jays eat whatever their parents bring them, including insects, berries, seeds and grains. While Blue jays also eat meat in the form of small animals and other birds, the young are unlikely to be able to digest it. Soft foods are preferable.
In the first few days after hatching, the male provides the vast majority of food, but the female will join if his haul is insufficient. Then, after a few days, the female typically joins the male to forage more feed for the hungry chicks.
After that, the male usually feeds the nestlings too, but the female has been observed reaching into the chicks’ mouths and redistributing food.
A blue jay feeding one of their chicks
In the first few days after hatching, the male does most of the foraging and feeds the nestlings. However, the female will often forcibly redistribute food by reaching into the nestlings’ mouths.
After around 4 to 5 days, the female typically joins the male. As the birds approach fledging, both birds feed the chicks. Parental feeding carries on for a week or two after the baby Blue jays fledge.
Blue jay eggs typically measure 28 mm x 20 mm and are predominantly ovular. colors vary from shades of blue, to green, olive and light brown.
They’re spotted or blotched with brownish markings, mainly towards the larger end. So while Blue jay eggs look similar to most corvid eggs, they vary a lot, especially regarding their color and shape.
A juvenile blue jay, perched on the fence
Blue jay eggs are incubated for around 17 to 18 days before hatching.
Female Blue jays typically lay between 2 to 7 eggs, but 4 to 5 is more common. It would be rare for all chicks to survive until adulthood.
Blue jays almost solely lay eggs in the months of March, April and May.
May egg-laying usually only occurs in the north, or when it’s particularly cold. In the south, egg-laying may start as early as early March, but rarely earlier.
Three Blue Jay fledglings perched in a tree together
Blue jay parents are presumed to partially regurgitate harder foods into the chicks' mouths, but probably feed most foods to the chicks whole. Larger pieces of food will be torn up before feeding.
Baby Blue jays are fed with berries, insects and seeds. Insects are ideal as they’re soft and high in protein and fats.
Blue jays fledge after just 17 to 21 days after hatching in most cases, but they’ll stay very close to the nest (within 25m or so usually) for another 2 to 3 weeks.
After that, young Blue jays usually stay within the family unit for another 2 to 3 months, at which point they’ve grown out most of their adult plumage and fly off to establish independent territories. Baby Blue jays often continue to harass their parents for food long into summer.
Close up of a baby blue jay
Helpers are single unpaired birds that help a pair of birds with everything from nest building and incubation to brooding and feeding.
Blue jays sometimes have nest helpers, though this is rarer than it is for other Corvids, e.g. crows.
Blue jay helpers have been observed helping build the nest and feeding the young. It’s unclear whether they’re related to the pair (e.g. last year’s young), or whether they’re unrelated.
Generally speaking, baby blue jays are most likely to be predated by cats when they are in the nest - particularly whilst on the rim of the nest, and for the first few days after they fledge the nest.
Blue Jays can be pretty aggressive when it comes to defending their nests, which can often scare the predators away. With cats, similar to other predators, the parents usually will mob the cat in an attempt to scare it away and protect their young.
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